I’d like to see more people giving back. Paying it forward, being kind to strangers. I feel the universe has looked over me and my 3 year old daughter this past year, and so I am now in a position of wanting to give back to others; buying a stranger a coffee, donating gifts from my store to charities, offering unwanted items to others in need.

For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Malvenan. Kate is from The Gold Coast, Australia. Kate is a solo parent to her 3 year old daughter Annabelle, plus the owner of her delightful homewares business ‘Maison & Maison’ www.maisonandmaison.com.au . Kate set up her business 5 years ago and grew it organically from the ground up. Kate has a huge online presence, a bricks and mortar store plus a large wholesale client list. Kate travels the Globe to source the most exotic homewares from Morocco, India, Turkey and more. Kate’s style and passion for eclectic color and charm is what gives Maison & Maison its signature unique style.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

For as long a I can remember I’ve loved home decor. When my school friends were spending pocket money on ice cream and candy, I was spending mine on Indian bowls and ceramic jugs for my bedroom. I actually worked in the film industry as a makeup artist which meant plenty of travel; while I was single this worked well, but after meeting my husband I decided that I wanted to be home more so I knew my career needed to change. I randomly tried having a stall at a local market, selling some excess wedding decorations and to my surprise I made a small fortune. I then bought some cushions and leather ottomans from EBay and they sold rapidly so by now I was hooked! Off to Turkey I went, traveling solo with an empty suitcase to expand my collection and I’ve honestly never looked back.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

By far the most ‘interesting’ story would be my cancer diagnosis last year. After a horrific marriage breakdown I left my husband due to his drug addiction to methamphetamine. I was utterly heartbroken, It’s said that you hold your grief in your lungs; 2 years after I walked away I was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal lung cancer. The cancer was already in my lymph nodes, liver, hips, spine, ribs and shoulders — I was given as little as 6 months to live and offered only palliative care 10 months on and I’m now 90% cancer free. I chose to travel overseas to an incredible clinic in Mexico called ‘Hope4cancer’ this clinic has most certainly saved my life. As well as running the store, I have a large following on Instagram @its_not_kates_time where I tell my story of cancer. I raise funds to assist others to Hope4Cancer too; if the Australian medical industry can’t help cancer patients here, then we’ll just have to go elsewhere.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What’s truly unique about Maison & Maison is the variety and ethnicity of our collection — we don’t follow any set trend or genre; our collection is built from a love of texture, color and vibrancy from traveling and sourcing internationally.

In store we have a feeling of excitement, interest and intrigue. Our pieces are continually changing and turning over so no 2 Days will the store ever be the same. Our customers come to us for two significant reasons; firstly because of the consistent variety they know they will find within our four walls and secondly because of the high level of customer service they receive; they are always welcome to browse, to sit, to touch, to ponder, to ask about the items and their background. Each and every piece we sell has its own story; we import directly from the supplier, be that from Morocco, India, Vietnam, Java — we help to support small business and families around the Globe.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now?

Always! I always have something exciting on the horizon, that’s what’s keep me so full of life. We have a photo shoot next week; we’ve hired a beautiful home, plus a world class stylist and photographer to capture our new collection. I’m just back from a world trip which included Morocco and I’m already organizing the next visit to Marrakesh in March.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

To lead a team one has to be a part of that team. One needs to listen, to be present and be ready to change direction if required. You can only be as good as your team so ensure that you’re all working in the right direction. Ask for their input, their ideas, make it known that each of them are important.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Spend time with your team members. Every few months I sit down with each staff member away from the store to get their feedback. My first question is “are you happy in your work?”. I always ask what I can do to make Maison & Maison the best work environment possible. I meet with my store manager and merchandiser weekly to ensure we’re all on the same page.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Certainly using my social media presence to help other cancer fighters and followers lead a healthier life. Collectively over 2 accounts I have over 43,000 followers. Through both these accounts I raise money to assist others with getting funding to visit Mexico for treatment. @maisonandmaison @its_not_kates_time

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t give up. Yes you’ll have many hurdles to jump, but don’t give up when things get tough. I see so many small businesses start and finish so rapidly as the owner has hit tough times… charge through those times with your head held high and smile on your face saying “I can do this, I can do this”!
  2. Don’t allow regret. We all make mistakes, whether they be large or small; but these just help mold us in to who we are. You did at the time what you thought was correct at the time — don’t beat yourself up if it turns out to be incorrect.
  3. Keep moving. Don’t stay dormant. Always ensure you’re looking forward to next week, next month, next season, next year. Never get so complaisant that you stand still.
  4. Show gratitude. Be thankful for your team and your support. We all enjoy words of encouragement, a pat on the back, a text message with a smiley face. Remember staff birthdays, add in some commission when your team do great. At Christmas my staff usually get a massage or a day spa. It’s only September but I’m already booking our Christmas party… showing gratitude is incredibly important.
  5. Be true to yourself. Don’t get blindsided by what your competitors are doing, stay in your lane, stay focused. If you worry too much about what others are doing you’ll conflict your own ideas with theirs.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to see more people giving back. Paying it forward, being kind to strangers. I feel the universe has looked over me and my 3 year old daughter this past year, and so I am now in a position of wanting to give back to others; buying a stranger a coffee, donating gifts from my store to charities, offering unwanted items to others in need.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Opportunity knocks quietly… learn to listen” I’ve always loved this quote even from being a very little girl. To me, this means to trust your instincts, follow your gut in the direction it’s telling you. Listen to your inner voice that guides you. Opportunities are rarely written in Black and White with a stamp on the front; I listened to my instinct, I changed my career overnight and I can honestly tell you I’ve never been happier.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Oprah, Oprah, Oprah!!! She’s incredible. She’s a power force. She gives back to others so much.

Richard Branson also… could we have breakfast on his island perhaps? He’s very humble, very grounded, and very kind — I love that